For those of you who have been following the Stretch Your Food Dollar series, I’m sure it’s a no-brainer that packing your lunch can help you save a bundle on food. Many of you probably already do. But I’m also willing to bet that you’ve probably grown a little weary of eating the same old thing each week. Turkey sandwich on wheat with lettuce and tomato? Snooze. Last night’s leftovers in a Tupperware box? Boring!

This week I’ve got two great recipes that are both super healthy and budget conscious. Both are from Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Romero. The first is for hummus. Use it as a vegetable dip or as a spread on sandwiches. It’s vegan, it’s easy, and it’s fun to experiment with different variations of the recipe.

Basic Hummus
(makes 4-8 servings)

2 (15 oz) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsp tahini
2-3 gloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup water, more or less depending on your desired consistency
Pinch of ground cumin or ground coriander
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Place half the chickpeas and olive oil in the food processor. Pulse several times, stopping to scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula. When the mixture is almost creamy, add the remaining chickpeas, oil, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, and seasonings. Alternate between adding water and pulsing the food processor, stopping several times to scrape the bowl, until the mixture is very creamy.

2. Season and add more lemon juice if necessary.

3. Transfer to an airtight container and chill for 30 minutes before serving.

If you’re making hummus for a sandwich or bagel spread, use less water than the recipe calls for so that the consistency is nice and thick and you don’t end up with soggy sandwiches. You can stretch your food dollar further if you buy dried chickpeas (or garbanzo beans, depending on where you live) in the bulk section of your grocery store. You’ll remember from last week’s bean discussion that you need to soak the beans over night before you cook them. And you should expect to cook these for an hour and a half before you make your hummus.

I’ve substituted lentils for chickpeas before and the hummus tastes almost identical. Want to give your dip an Asian flavor? Try using edamame instead of chickpeas and then season it with some wasabe to give it a little (or a lot) of kick.

Sexy salads are another way to make brown bag lunches just a little more interesting. I’m not talking about a bowl full of lettuce drowning in dressing. I’m talking about a not-your-average-salad kind of salad.

Corn and Edamame Sesame Salad
(Makes 4-6 servings)

2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp rice vinegar (regular vinegar works, too)
2 tsp soy sauce

2 cups frozen, shelled edamame
1 cup frozen corn
2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

1. Bring a pot of water to boil. Meanwhile, mix all the dressing ingredients together in a medium-size mixing bowl.

2. Boil the edamame for 3 minutes. Add the corn and boil for another 2 minutes. Drain in a colander and run under cold water until cool enough to touch.

3. Add the corn and edamame to the dressing and toss to combine. Add the sesame seeds and toss again. Add salt to taste. Cover and chill for 15 minutes before serving.

I hope these recipes bring a little intrigue to your humdrum lunches. Another thing that makes bagged lunches a little more exciting is to pack them in a gift bag instead of the boring old brown bag. If you pack your partner’s lunch for them, why not slip a little love note in there to make their lunch extra special?

How about you? What are some of your favorite lunchtime recipes that help you stretch your food dollar?

Photo credit: Stock.xchng